Geisinger chief innovation officer: 3 areas of healthcare that are ripe for innovation

In a recent phone interview, Geisinger’s new chief innovation officer, Karen Murphy, discussed her new role and the future of healthcare transformation.

In June, Danville, Pennsylvania-based Geisinger appointed Karen Murphy executive vice president, chief innovation officer and founding director of the Steele Institute for Healthcare Innovation.

She began her position earlier this month.

Most recently, she served as secretary of health in Pennsylvania. Murphy was also the director of the State Innovation Models Initiative, a CMS investment, as well as the president and CEO of Moses Taylor Health Care System.

In a phone interview, she shared her thoughts on her new role and the future of healthcare innovation.

This exchange has been lightly edited.

What are the key health issues facing patient populations in Pennsylvania, and how are organizations like Geisinger working to address them?

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In Pennsylvania, we are working with a very elderly population, along with a very high incidence of chronic disease. We are concentrating not only on healthcare delivery, but also the health of our community.

We’re also addressing the No. 1 crisis in the country, which is the opioid epidemic.

How will your background experiences inform your new work at Geisinger?

I have spent the better part of my career in the hospital world. I began my career as a critical care nurse, then worked in hospital administration. I ended up at that hospital as president and CEO.

I had my next position with the federal government at the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation.

Following that opportunity, I served in [Pennsylvania] Governor [Tom] Wolf’s cabinet as secretary of health. I was honored to serve in that role and influence state policy.

Coming to Geisinger is a real thrill for me because it is nationally renowned for innovation. I’m looking forward to working with all parts of the system to continue that spirit of innovation. It’s a perfect place for me.

What are you most looking forward to in your new position as Geisinger’s chief innovation officer?

It has to do with a new period of time for innovation. For the last eight years, the healthcare industry was focused on stage one innovation with accountable care and bundled payments. I think it’s time to build on that work.

It’s very important for me to concentrate on that effort to improve health. As an industry, we’re recognizing that it is at the community level that we can make a difference.

There are some tremendous assets here at Geisinger that include analytics and health researchers. At the end of the day, we can turn results into things that are very meaningful for the populations we serve.

As founding director, what are your main goal for the Steele Institute for Healthcare Innovation?

My responsibility is to operationalize the Steele Institute for Innovation, and my goal is to take an organized, focused and disciplined approach to innovation.

It’s named after Dr. Glenn Steele, and we want it to be a model for other health institutes and their innovation efforts.

Which areas of healthcare are most ripe for innovation?

From the standpoint of healthcare delivery, I think the area most ripe is one of the major themes of what we do at Geisinger: concentrate on that patient experience. Our outcomes don’t match what our investment is. We need to meet our patients’ needs better than we are doing right now.

The other area ripe for innovation is that the people we serve are not only our patients, but the people residing in our area. Our goal is to reach out and touch those members of our community, despite the fact that they might not be a patient. We want to build communities that promote health and wellness.

The third area we’re interested in is to develop a better wheelhouse than fee-for-service medicine and look at ways we can expend healthcare dollars in a more rational way. 

How can organizations work to ensure they’re putting patients at the center of all innovation work?

They absolutely are at the center of our work, and they’re what motivates us to come to work every day.

The most important part is to listen to what the patients have to say. A lot of times in healthcare, we think we know what the patients want, and at the end of the day, what we think patients what is not always what patients value.

We certainly actively survey our patients, but we do have to go further and sit back and listen to what they’re telling us and modify accordingly.

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